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The Impact of Alcohol on Migraines

Posted Tuesday 01 October 2019 09:13 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

Migraines are extremely intense headaches which can also result in vision problems, dizziness and nausea. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, though they are thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity.[1]

But one theory behind migraines is that they can be caused by excessive drinking. We’re going to take a closer look at this theory.

Can alcohol cause migraines?

Although there is not enough evidence to conclusively state that drinking alcohol causes migraines, there is reason enough to find a link between the two.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you expel more fluid when you take it in, often referred to as ‘breaking the seal’. Losing fluid from your body can lead to dehydration, which is another known migraine trigger. What’s more, drinking alcohol relaxes the blood vessels, which causes increased blood flow to the brain and can make migraines more likely to occur.[2]

One 2014 study studied two groups — migraine sufferers and non-sufferers — after a night of drinking. They found that participants who suffered from migraines experienced a higher tendency of migraine-like symptoms, but no difference in other hangover symptoms compared to non-sufferers.[3]

What’s more, population-based studies in various countries such as Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the US have consistently found that fewer migraine sufferers consume alcohol than those without headaches. This is most likely explained as migraine sufferers giving up alcohol because it is triggering headaches.[4]

Alcohol as a migraine trigger

Of all alcoholic drinks, red wine is often cited as the biggest migraine trigger. Studies have shown that the odds of a person naming red wine as a migraine trigger are over three times greater than the odds of naming beer.[5]

Research does show that red wine could cause issues for people with certain sensitivities. For example, red wine contains 20-200 times the amount of histamine as white wine. Migraines can be a symptom of histamine intolerance, so people with this allergy may experience migraines as a result of drinking.

Red wine can also cause a rise in the level of serotonin in the blood, which has been linked to migraine headaches.[6]

Alcohol is also a well-known trigger of cluster headaches — a similar phenomenon to migraines characterised by pain on one side of the head. Those with a cluster headache are advised to avoid drinking alcohol until the episode has completely passed.[7]

How to reduce the severity and frequency of your migraines

Outside of alcohol, there are many other factors which have been known to trigger migraines in sufferers. These can be emotional, physical, dietary or environmental, and include:

Stress and anxiety

Dehydration

Caffeine

Bright lights

Smoking

Skipping meals

Tension

Lack of sleep[8]

Addressing these problem areas can help to alleviate the intensity and frequency of your migraines. Staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, eating regular healthy meals and getting enough fresh air and natural light are just some of the ways people manage their migraine symptoms.[9]

Migraine medication like Sumatriptan can also be useful in reducing migraine symptoms. In fact, clinical studies showed that migraine intensity dropped by 79% in participants given 8mg of Sumatriptan, compared to just 25% in those given the placebo drug.[10]

Safe and effective migraine treatment is available from Express Pharmacy. Speak to one of our expert pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet Live Chat service.

[1] NHS UK. Migraine. 2019

[2] Panconesi, A. MD. Alcohol and migraine: trigger factor, consumption mechanisms. A review. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2008

[3] Zlotnik, Y. et al. Alcohol consumption and hangover patterns among migraine sufferers. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. 2014.

[4] Panconesi, A. MD. Alcohol and Migraine. American Migraine Foundation. 2016

[5] Mathew, PG. MD, FAAN, FAHS. Alcohol and headaches. Harvard Health Publishing. 2018.

[6] Panconesi. 2008

[7] The Migraine Trust. Cluster Headache. 2019

[8] NHS UK. Migraine Causes. 2019.

[9] The Migraine Trust. Coping and managing. 2019

[10] The Subcutaneous Sumatriptan International Study Group. Treatment of Migraine Attacks with Sumatriptan. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1991.

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How Is Your Morning Routine Impacting Your Health?

Posted Friday 20 September 2019 14:01 by in Weight loss by Tim Deakin

healthy living

A morning routine can be beneficial to your overall health and productivity. Establishing a positive routine can help to alleviate stress, improve sleep quality, improve your diet, encourage fitness and help you utilise your time better.[1]

What’s more, finding your ideal morning routine can positively impact your attitude, energy levels and performance throughout the day, helping to reduce your chances of feeling depleted later in the morning or afternoon.[2]

So how does your morning routine measure up? We’re taking a look at some of the key components of a healthy morning — breakfast, natural light and fitness — to see just how important they really are.

Breakfast

Breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day because it breaks the overnight fasting period, replenishes your glucose supply and provides many other essential nutrients to provide you with energy throughout the day. Eating a high-fibre breakfast reduced fatigue, while skipping breakfast can reduce mental performance during the day.[3]

But despite this, research continually shows that many people go without breakfast in the UK. One study conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation found that 14% of teachers and almost a quarter of secondary school students (24%) did not eat breakfast before attending school.[4]

According to many experts, healthy breakfast can also reduce your risk of experiencing conditions like acid reflux. And they advise that you always make time for a balanced breakfast of fibre, fruit and protein to give you a good base of energy for the day ahead.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that there is a growing belief that skipping breakfast has its own benefits. In particular, fans of intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating believe that there are many benefits to restricting eating hours to just an 8 hour window, suggesting that breakfast may not be all that crucial after all. There is some evidence to suggest that time restricted eating has benefits in relation to weight management, digestion and even immune function.

Sunlight

Natural light exposure is one of the key elements for maintaining your overall health. Sunlight has been shown to boost productivity, promote energy, increase your vitamin D storage and even improve your mood.[5]

In the morning, letting the light into your home can help you feel more awake more swiftly, standing you in good stead for the day ahead. In the long term, bright natural light exposure in the morning has even been shown to be effective against insomnia, premenstrual syndrome and seasonal affective disorder.[6]

Sunlight and fresh air are also often advised in cases of migraines and headaches. So try to get up and out in the light early when you wake up.

Exercise

There are numerous benefits to a regular fitness regime. Exercise helps to stimulate the development of bones, joints and muscles. It improves heart and lung health, helps you maintain a healthy weight and can even tackle symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.[7]

Completing an exercise routine in the morning is an effective way of reducing stress and lowering blood pressure, according to a 2011 study by Appalachian State University.[8] Similarly, researchers at the University of Bristol found that exercising in the morning gives you more energy and a more positive outlook.[9]

Incorporating a fitness regime into your morning routine, even if it’s only 10 or 20 minutes long, can help to lift your mood and help you with weight management.

Find safe and effective treatments for a variety of conditions right here at Express Pharmacy. Explore our site today or get in touch with one of our pharmacists by calling 0208 123 07 03. You can also contact us via our discreet online live chat service.

[1] Northwestern Medicine. Health Benefits of Having a Routine. 2019

[2] Harvard Extension School Professional Development. 3 ways to boost productivity with a morning routine. 2019

[3] Better Health. Breakfast. 2012

[4] British Nutrition Foundation. A quarter of UK secondary school children have no breakfast. 2015

[5] Davies, C. Shining light on what natural light does for your body. NC State University. 2014

[6] Mead, MN. Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008

[7] Raby, A. PhD. Benefits of Exercise. BUPA. 2019

[8] Appalachian State University. Early morning exercise is the best for reducing blood pressure and reducing sleep. 2011

[9] Harvard Extension School Professional Development. 3 ways to boost productivity with a morning routine. 2019

Tags: Weight Loss

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5 Early Forms of Contraception Which Will Make You Thankful for the Pill

Posted Friday 13 September 2019 12:54 by in Women's Medication by Tim Deakin

female contraception

The pill is one of the most popular forms of contraption in the world. When taken correctly, it is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.[1]

However, the pill hasn’t always been an option. For centuries, women have relied on other, often unusual methods of avoiding pregnancy. We’re going to take a look at some of the oddest forms of early contraception to show just how much the pill has changed things.

Botanical beverages

For thousands of years, concoctions have been brewed with the promise of preventing or eradicating a pregnancy. Ancient texts reveal numerous herbal recipes, featuring plants such as hawthorn, willow and ivy. These were alleged to show sterilising properties when drunk. Substances were also commonly applied to the genitals before and after sex – as a way to form of kind of chemical barrier – and things like honey, acacia and even crocodile dung were used to create solid plugs or suppositories.[2]

Douching

During the Roman era, douching was one of the more common forms of post-coital pregnancy prevention. In fact, it was often completed both before and after sexual activity. Douching is the act of rinsing the vagina with fluids, most commonly sea water, lemon juice or even vinegar. The idea was that, by rinsing the vagina, women would flush out any sperm and hopefully kill any sperm cells that remained.[3]

Instances of women using this technique to prevent can be found well into the 20th century.

Early caps and condoms

Male condoms have been present far longer than female ones. Early examples of male condoms were made from linen or – slightly later – animal intestines. In 1883, Dutch doctor Aletta Jacobs created the first vulcanised rubber cap. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that rubber female condoms were first made available, and since 2003 the silicone FemCap has been the only cervical cap available in the UK.[4]

Contraceptive sponges

For centuries, items such as leaves, lemons and sponges were used as vaginal barriers during intercourse. Sponges have continued to be used up until even the present day, though not in the UK. The Today Sponge — a plastic sponge which covers the cervix and contains spermicides to prevent pregnancy — was available in the UK between 1985 and 1995.[5]

Sponges were thought to be able to ‘soak up’ sperm and prevent pregnancy as a result. However, effectiveness rates can be as low as 76%, meaning as many as a quarter of women still get pregnant after using the sponge.[6]

Early contraceptive medicines

Oral contraceptives date back more than 2,000 years. Things like willow shoots, male deer horn scrapings and even bees were once considered to have contraceptive qualities if consumed. Even in the years just before the pill, other forms of oral contraception were considered. In 1945, Syntex SA was established to produce steroids from diosgenin – a plant steroid in Mexican yams.[7]

How did the pill change things?

Introduced to the world in the 1960s, the contraceptive pill is considered by many to be a catalyst for the age of free love, sexual liberation and women’s rights which is associated with the decade.

Within two years of the pill’s release, it was being used by 1.2 million women in the US alone.[8] Nowadays, the contraceptive pill comes in 32 different forms and is used by around 100 million women, offering easy access to safe contraceptive measures. It is the popular prescribed contraceptive in the UK overall.[9]

Safe and effective female contraceptive medication is available right here at Express Pharmacy. Get in touch today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet Live Chat service.

[1] NHS UK. Combined Pill. 2017

[2] McLaren, A. A History of Contraception: From Antiquity to the Present Day. Oxford: B. Blackwell. 1990

[3] Riddle, JM. Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1992.

[4] FPA. Contraception: Past, Present and Future Factsheet. 2010

[5] FPA. Contraception: Past, Present and Future Factsheet. 2010

[6] Planned Parenthood. How effective is the sponge? 2019

[7] Dickens, E., Immaculate Contraception: The extraordinary story of birth control from the first fumblings to the present day. London: Robson. 2000.

[8] Bridge, S. A history of the pill. The Guardian. 2007

[9] Davis, N., McIntyre, N. Revealed: pill still most popular prescribed contraceptive in England. The Guardian. 2019

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The Impact of High Altitude on Pre-Existing Conditions

Posted Monday 02 September 2019 09:07 by in Altitude Sickness by Tim Deakin

altitude sickness

With increasing numbers of people travelling to more remote and exotic locations, journeying to high altitudes has becoming more popular than ever. High altitude is generally defined as any height between 1,500 and 3,500m, with 3,500 - 5,500m being classed as very high altitude and anything over 5,500m classed as extreme altitude.[1]

Altitude sickness can occur when you move between altitudes occurs too quickly for acclimatisation to take place effectively.[2] Mild forms of altitude sickness are known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), while more severe forms can develop into high altitude cerebral oedema (HACO) or high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPO).[3]

Symptoms of mountain sickness can change depending on what form of illness you have developed, and how severe it is. The most common symptoms of altitude sickness include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, lethargy and sleep problems. In more severe cases, these symptoms become worse and are accompanied by headaches, nausea and vomiting, as well as a tightness in the chest. In the most serious cases, the condition can lead to confusion, immobility and a fluid build-up in the lungs.[4]

But for those with pre-existing conditions, avoiding altitude sickness requires even more care and planning.

High altitude and pre-existing conditions

Most people can enjoy travelling to areas of higher altitudes if the necessary care is taken, but travellers with certain medical conditions should seek out medical advice before travelling to make sure their condition is stable, and won’t be worsened by the altitude change.

These conditions include:

Diabetes

Epilepsy

Heart conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease

Lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Sick cell disease[5]

Pregnancy also requires greater care in higher altitudes, as the World Health Organisation recommended avoiding altitudes higher than 3000m when pregnant.[6]

Age and disability can also impact the risk of altitude sickness when travelling, so be sure to consult your GP if you feel your chances of developing the condition may be higher.

Precautions against altitude sickness

No matter who you are and how robust your overall health is, it is vital that you take precautions when travelling to high altitudes.

It is generally advised that you avoid travelling from altitudes less than 1,200m to altitudes greater than 3,500m in a single day. When you reach altitudes higher than 3,000m, avoid increasing your elevation by more than 500m a day, and make room for a rest day every three or four days.[7]

If you do begin to develop symptoms of high altitude, don’t continue to ascend. Always attempt to descend if your symptoms worsen or become severe.[8]

Medications like acetazolamide can be used to lessen the impact of altitude sickness, aiding recovery, by causing a mild metabolic acidosis which increases respiratory rate, improving oxygenation.[9]

You can find safe and effective altitude sickness treatment like acetazolamide right here at Express Pharmacy. Get in touch with our pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet online Live Chat service.

[1] Hackett, PR. Roach, RC. High altitude medicine in: Wilderness Medicine. 2011

[2] Palmer, BF. Physiology and pathophysiology with ascent to altitude. American Journal of Medical Science. 2010

[3] Charlton, T. PhD. Altitude sickness — a doctor’s story. Bupa UK. 2018

[4] Cleveland Clinic. Altitude Sickness. 2017

[5] NHS Fit for Travel. Altitude and Travel. 2018

[6] World Health Organisation. International Travel and Health: Travellers with pre-existing medical conditions and special needs. 2019

[7] Travel Health Pro. Altitude sickness. 2018

[8] Luks, AM. Et al. Wilderness Medical Society practice guidelines for the prevention and treatment of acute altitude illness. Wilderness Environ Med. 2014

[9] Williamson, J. et al. Altitude sickness and acetazolamide. BMJ. 2018

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How Putting Pen to Paper Can Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals

Posted Thursday 29 August 2019 21:26 by in Weight loss by Tim Deakin

Carrying excess weight is something many people struggle with. In fact, 28.7% of adults in England alone are obese, and a further 35.6% are overweight.[1]

What’s more, 10,660 hospital admissions a year in England can be directly attributed to obesity, and 20% of children aged 10-11 are classified as obese.[2]

These numbers highlight a serious issue, as obesity can be a significant factor in the onset of many health conditions like cancer. In fact, overweight and obesity causes 13 types of cancer: bowel, breast, gallbladder, kidney, liver, meningioma, myeloma, oesophageal, ovary, pancreas, stomach, thyroid and uterus. Obesity causes 6% of cancer cases in the UK, making it the biggest cause after smoking.[3]

So, effective weight management is key to our overall health, and data shows that keeping a food journal is one way to tackle your excess weight.

Food journals make you more mindful of your meals

Food journals can be a helpful way of being more mindful about what and when you eat. It’s recommended that you make a note of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating and when you’re eating. The more specific you can be, the better, so it’s advised that you make a note soon after eating instead of waiting until the end of the day, and jot down factors like where you are eating and who you are eating with to see if there are any common factors in your snacking.[4]

Research shows that keeping a record of what you’re eating can lead to greater success when it comes to weight management. In one study of almost 1,700 participants, those who kept a food diary lost on average twice as much weight as those who kept no record of their dietary habits.[5]

What else can you do to successfully manage your weight?

Food journals are not the only way to tackle weight management successfully. We often think of weight loss as a near-impossible and often lifelong issue, but finding out what works for you is key to achieving your goals.

It is vital that you aim to lose excess weight in a healthy way. Following a healthy, balanced diet and getting regular exercise are the two key components to managing your weight in the long term.

You can also introduce a few lifestyle changes in order to improve your chances of success, such as setting realistic goals to avoid getting disheartened, e.g. losing 0.5lbs per week. You can also stick to meals you’ve prepared yourself, make the time for a good breakfast and have a break between courses to see whether you’re full enough to do without dessert.[6]

When used alongside a healthy diet and fitness routine, medication can help you achieve your goals effectively. Xenical, for example, has been shown in clinical trials to cause significant reduction in weight, BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol and LDL levels compared to a placebo drug.[7]

Safe and effective weight loss medications like Mysimba, Xenical and Saxenda are all available from Express Pharmacy. Get in touch today to find out more about these treatment options. Simply call one of our pharmacists today on 0208 123 07 03 or use our discreet online Live Chat service.

[1] House of Commons Library. Obesity Statistics. UK Parliament. 2019

[2] NHS England. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England, 2019. 2019

[3] Cancer Research UK. Overweight and obesity statistics. 2015

[4] McManus, KD. Why keep a food diary. Harvard Health Publishing. 2019

[5] Hollis, JF. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of weight-loss maintenance trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008

[6] McArdle, P. Losing weight Safely. Bupa UK. 2017

[7] Jain, SS. Et al. Evaluation of efficacy and safety of orlistat in obese patients. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011

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